(Editor’s Note: this article was written before Ikora: Lair of Behemoths was released.)
Hello guys! Today, I am going to talk about my actual favorite format: Modern.
Modern is in a great position right now. Many decks are playable, nothing is too broken and games are super interactive. The main reason for this, is the presence of 《Force of Negation》.
Countering the right card is very strong against most of the combo decks in Modern. 《Force of Negation》 just do the “preventing” job that 《Force of Will》 is doing in Legacy (Many Legacy decks play 4 《Force of Will》 and 2 《Force of Negation》 now).
The State of Modern
My Choice: Bant Snowblade
I started with a decklist that Petr Sochurek shared few days ago.
I was playing with the deck while discussing with Petr and I arrived to this conclusions about the list:
1 《Snow-Covered Forest》
1 《Snow-Covered Plains》
2 《Breeding Pool》
1 《Hallowed Fountain》
1 《Temple Garden》
2 《Mystic Sanctuary》
4 《Flooded Strand》
4 《Misty Rainforest》
4 《Field of Ruin》
-Land (25)- 4 《Ice-Fang Coatl》
2 《Snapcaster Mage》
3 《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》
2 《Mana Leak》
3 《Force of Negation》
2 《Archmage’s Charm》
1 《Timely Reinforcements》
2 《Cryptic Command》
2 《Supreme Verdict》
4 《Arcum’s Astrolabe》
2 《Teferi, Time Raveler》
2 《Jace, the Mind Sculptor》
2 《Teferi, Hero of Dominaria》
But I really prefer a more aggressive version. Also, this bigger version of Bant is not winning the Bant mirror.
Here is the decklist I am playing now.
2 《Snow-Covered Island》
1 《Snow-Covered Plains》
2 《Breeding Pool》
1 《Hallowed Fountain》
1 《Temple Garden》
1 《Dryad Arbor》
4 《Misty Rainforest》
4 《Windswept Heath》
3 《Flooded Strand》
-Land (21)- 4 《Noble Hierarch》
2 《Birds of Paradise》
4 《Ice-Fang Coatl》
4 《Stoneforge Mystic》
4 《Spell Queller》
2 《Renegade Rallier》
2 《Vendilion Clique》
1 《Spell Pierce》
4 《Force of Negation》
1 《Sword of Feast and Famine》
1 《Sword of Fire and Ice》
3 《Jace, the Mind Sculptor》
Card Choices: Maindeck
Snow Basic Lands
You obviously want 1 of each for the fetchlands. You want a second copy of 《Snow-Covered Forest》 because of your 6 《Noble Hierarch》 / 《Birds of Paradise》 and second 《Snow-Covered Island》 because of Jace and 《Vendilion Clique》. Also, having many snow basic is great for 《Ice-Fang Coatl》 and against 《Magus of the Moon》 and 《Path to Exile》 / 《Field of Ruin》.
You have 8 fetchlands to search for it in your deck, so all of them represent a potential creature to equip. It can be your flash creature after a 《Supreme Verdict》, and it can also chump-block in a close race or to protect your Jace. Many people don’t play around it, I even traded it with a 《Slippery Bogle》 once.
With the high number of 3 mana cards in our deck, it’s pretty good to have one of this accelerations on turn 1. 6 seems the right number. Also even in late game, you will be able to equip one of them and use it as a finisher.
Turn 2 Bodies
The deck exists because of 《Stoneforge Mystic》. The card was banned during many years in Modern, mainly because it was dominating Standard too much. Having a turn 2 quality threat as Stoneforge is great, especially with 《Force of Negation》 to protect her.
《Ice-Fang Coatl》 has multiple qualities. First, it replace himself with its enter the battlefield ability. Then it can trade with many strong creatures like 《Tarmogoyf》 or 《Death’s Shadow》. Besides that, it’s a blue card and it helps you to respect the minimum number for 《Force of Negation》.
3 Mana GREAT Creatures
《Spell Queller》 is ridiculous in this deck. Many cards in your deck are instant or have flash. It means that it’s not so obvious when to keep mana open. You could have an 《Ice-Fang Coatl》, a 《Mana Leak》, a 《Vendilion Clique》 or a 《Force of Negation》. It’s a very good tempo card and you can protect it by using equipments on it.
《Renegade Rallier》 is a super good cards in fair matchups. It produces card advantage and body presence at the same time. A turn 2 Renegade bringing back a fetchland is very good. Also, your opponents must kill Stoneforge in sorcery speed if they don’t want you to put a 《Batterskull》 in play the next turn. If they do, Renegade brings her back, searches a Sword and even if they kill Stoneforge again, you win a turn to pay 5 mana for 《Batterskull》.
《Vendilion Clique》 is a very good addition to fight combo decks. You can play it on their draw step as usual but I especially like the fact to bluff a 《Spell Queller》 and if opponent passed their turn without any plays then you can play Clique safely at the end of turn. Also doing that doesn’t mean you don’t have Queller so they will face kind of the same situation in the very next turn.
Instant / Sorcery
I thought that 4 《Path to Exile》 was not enough removals in the deck and I decided to play 6 with a 《Dismember》 and an 《Oust》. 《Dismember》 can be cast with 《Birds of Paradise》 but most of the time it requires us 4 life so you don’t want the second copy. 《Oust》 is great against any creature decks like Mono-Red Prowess, 《Devoted Druid》 Combo and Humans, especially when you face a 《Meddling Mage》 on 《Path to Exile》.
If there is a reason to play the deck other than 《Stoneforge Mystic》, it will be 《Force of Negation》. The card allows you to play a threat and counter a key card at the same turn. This is the card Modern needed to keep in respect combo decks.
I play the same 3 as Petr does. It looks very good like this.
I played only two for a long time… and I’ve never been so sure when to add the 3rd copy. This is a card you want to see every game and because it’s blue you can still exile the extra copy for 《Force of Negation》. It’s also too good to have Force and Jace on the same turn since when you untap with Jace you win almost all games.
Cards I Don’t Play and Why
When asked about the absence of 《Teferi, Time Raveler》, Petr answered this:
And I agree with that. Modern is not an instant speed format right now, everybody is doing their stuff in sorcery speed.
Same for Uro, I can see why the card is great in the right deck against aggressive strategies but it’s not the majority of decks in Modern and it’s kind of dead card against all the combo.
The card increases the number of snow permanent for Coatl, this is true and I believe the card is great but not in this deck. I don’t think it’s good to play 6 Hierarch / Birds and 4 《Arcum’s Astrolabe》 in the same deck so you have to choose. Our list doesn’t have mana colors problems; and you play enough fetchlands to have the 3 other snow permanents.
I played 1, it’s good as an alternative to Coatl for 2 mana instant speed. I remove it from my deck because I was winning a lot against combo decks and wanted more stuff against aggressive decks, and added an 《Oust》 instead.
Card Choices: Sideboard
Current 15 Cards
Don’t sideboard in it against 《Underworld Breach》 Artifact Deck, they usually play between 0 and 2 《Urza, Lord High Artificer》, and there is no other target. Also, against GW Heliod the card might be OK according to the version you are facing. If they play 《Finale of Devastation》 and/or 《Chord of Calling》 in addition to 《Collected Company》 it might be good.
Gift Storm has only 《Goblin Electromancer》 (maybe 《Aria of Flame》 in sideboard) the fact that it doesn’t kill 《Baral, Chief of Compliance》 is an issue and I think it’s better to not play 《Celestial Purge》.
Against Dredge it deals with 《Prized Amalgam》 and 《Bloodghast》 but doing a 1 for 1 is not how you will win the game and 4 《Path to Exile》 is already good enough. I prefer 《Path to Exile》 since you can use it on your own creatures and its cost is only one mana (important with Jace). Anyway, Dredge doesn’t play much basic lands.
The card is a big issue for those 4 decks. Having it in play and protect it with counterspells basically win the game. Also, 《Renegade Rallier》 can bring it back.
Basically anything with counterspells or discards.
The reason why I prefer 《Ashiok, Dream Render》 to 《Rest in Peace》 is because of the static ability of Ashiok. The fact that your opponent can’t search their library is an issue for many decks in Modern. With Ashiok you have sideboard card against many decks since it is versatile. Also, you can play it on turn 2 with Hierarch / Birds.
It’s one of my favorite cards to play in Modern in my sideboard. If I play blue or black I will never leave home without my Ashiok!
I want many removals in creature-based matchups since you want to clean the board before having a Jace in play. Also, you have many counterspells to sideboard out in some matchups and you want to have removal instead.
Almost nobody plays it at the moment because it’s bad with the Swords in your deck. The thing is, in the matchup you want it, it’s going to be more annoying for your opponent than you, and they have to deal with it. Also, the fact that nobody plays it right now made the card stronger since your opponent might not anticipate it.
That being said, I believe 《Stony Silence》 is actually replaceable according to the metagame you expect. Right now I played a lot of those 4 matchups online so I keep playing it.
The card is not the strongest one but it can be replaced bad cards of your main deck in many matchups to make sure you have the right number of cards to sideboard in.
Other Sideboard Options
Bant Snowblade (Control Version)
You play cheaper cards, better interactions and at instant speed. I never lost a single game in this matchup.
Ad Nauseum / Neobrand
They have a really hard time to set up the combo. We have pressure, hand disruption and counterspell. Almost impossible to lose a match.
《Spell Queller》 and 《Force of Negation》 are super good against 《Past in Flames》 since it gets exiled. Be careful that they are going to play 《Gifts Ungiven》 during your turn so your 《Force of Negation》 is not free.
Every card in your deck is good against them. If you dodge 《Chalice of the Void》 in the early game it should be easy to win.
Red Green Moon
Since you play Hierarch and Birds, they can’t attack your lands. Also, with so many basic lands in addition to the mana creatures it’s almost impossible to be locked on 《Magus of the Moon》.
That being said, opponent is going to try to kill every single creatures on your board but Coatl and Renegade are nightmares for them since those two creatures produce card advantage. Also, the big differences of the mana cost between 《Path to Exile》 and 《Glorybringer》 creates some tempo loss for Red Green player.
The matchup is great since you can win without graveyard hate. 《Batterskull》 control the board perfectly and win you the game when you equip a flying creature. 《Sword of Feast and Famine》 is good because of the protection from black but you don’t want to attack them to discard a card since it may help Dredge.
GW Heliod Combo
You kill/counter only important creatures, like 《Devoted Druid》, 《Heliod, Sun-Crowned》, 《Walking Ballista》 and 《Spike Feeder》. They can assemble the combo very easily but they are very soft to interactions since some creatures don’t do anything by themselves like Heliod or 《Vizier of Remedies》.
Your only target to 《Force of Negation》 is 《Aether Vial》 so don’t hesitate to counter it on turn 1. Game one is a bit tough, but it becomes much better after sideboard when you swap counterspells for removals.
This is a very fair match. They probably have an edge in the early games because of the discard spells but you definitely have it in the late games with both Swords to create advantages. Surprisingly, even if it creates card disadvantage, 《Force of Negation》 is good in this matchup because it can counter the two most annoying cards, 《Liliana of the Veil》 and 《Wrenn and Six》. Anyway, you have many ways to create card advantage with Coatl, Renegade and Jace. You just want a good tempo/protection when you tap out for playing them.
Jund / Grixis / Mardu Shadow
You play many removals, they don’t have much basics for 《Path to Exile》s and 《Oust》 is super good since it increases their life total. You will win by controlling the game most of the time, and finish it with Jace. You don’t need to attack them until you have many cards in hand and they have nothing. Coatl is amazingly good in this matchup too. Take care of 《Temur Battle Rage》.
It’s pretty simple, if you prevent 《Urza, Lord High Artificer》 from landing, you have a very high chance to win. If you don’t, you probably are going to lose. Jace’s [-1] ability can deal with the construct token and 《Path to Exile》 can get rid of Urza but 《Vendilion Clique》 / 《Spell Queller》 is a better answer for Urza. The rest of the deck is easy to deal with.
You have to deal with all their creatures and Coatl is good against them. 《Force of Negation》 doesn’t accomplish much and you really prefer sideboard games with more removals. Most of the time, Jace’s [+2] and its ultimate is the way to win.
《Searing Blaze》 and 《Searing Blood》 are the most annoying cards creating something very similar to 2 for 1. Keep in mind to prioritize using 《Force of Negation》 for those cards. The way to win is 《Batterskull》. You want to protect your Stoneforge as much as possible but if you can’t, you just try to kill and counter important stuffs until you can hard cast 《Batterskull》. 《Renegade Rallier》 is super good in this matchup as it forces opponent to use a card + you can bring back Stoneforge or a fetch land to accelerate into 《Batterskull》.
Niv to Light
I think this is a bad match up. They have some “you win the game” spells and insane cards like 《Supreme Verdict》. You can exile 《Supreme Verdict》 with 《Spell Queller》 but they play a lot of removals. I think Niv to Light is just the opposite deck to Bant, it destroys creature-based decks and lose to combo decks. It’s actually the deck I like the most outside Bant.
Here again you have to kill all creatures except 《Noble Hierarch》. You will try to block 《Glistener Elf》 and 《Inkmoth Nexus》. The most dangerous card is 《Blighted Agent》 by far, so make sure to save your removals for it and your opponent can’t protect it with 《Blossoming Defense》.
《Force of Negation》 and 《Spell Queller》 can deal with 《Summoner’s Pact》 and 《Scapeshift》 but not with 《Primeval Titan》. Against Titan, your best weapons in the maindeck are 《Vendilion Clique》 and 《Path to Exile》. Jace is your best win condition. They are going to empty their hand pretty fast and you will just use Jace’s [+2] to prevent them from drawing the win conditions and win the game with its ultimate.
After sideboard you have 《Ashiok, Dream Render》, 《Disdainful Stroke》 and 《Aether Gust》 to deal with Titan. The thing you also have to deal with is 《Dryad of the Ilysian Grove》 + 《Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle》 combo. It’s pretty annoying because you will be never happy to 《Path to Exile》 anything else but Titan. Overall, I definitely prefer to play against other land combo decks like Amulet and Tron but it’s still an average match up.
You have nothing against them. You play all removals to make sure you don’t lose games when they have only 《Kor Spiritdancer》. The deck is full of variance so you can just win if they mulligan a lot.
General Tips with the Deck
I think the deck is great if you are expecting a midrange / combo oriented metagame, but if you expect many aggro decks, you may just tune the list with more removals and 《Renegade Rallier》 to improve the maindeck against them.
I wrote this article for non open decklist tournaments but I believe open decklist is super good for interactive decks like Bant since you know if it’s better to have removal or counterpsell in the matchup. Mulligan decision would be easier too.
My winrate with the maindeck is average and super good after sideboard.
Predict your metagame is a key, because if you can improve your maingame winrate you might just win a lot.
Thank you for reading,
Jeremy Dezani He was the 2013-14 Player of the Year with his crowning achievement taking place at Pro Tour Theros where he won in spectacular fashion with Blue Devotion back in 2013. He has a stunning over 10 Grand Prix Top 8s to his name including 3 wins and Runner-up 4 times. He will also be the first Non-Japanese player to join the ranks of the Hareruya Pros.